Sep 192016

The Three Russians

by Gaither Stewart

Punto Press, New York

Review by JP Miller

3russians-bookcoverIt may seem strange to begin a review of a “spy story” by noting the stalwart morality of an apparently irredeemable and ruthless spy. But, Stewart’s creation of Misha Nikiforov, ex KGB and Russian successor to his influential and unforgettable Anatoly Nikitin of the novel, The Trojan Spy, and a spiritual brother of Oleg in the accompanying story in this volume, Shadows Beyond the Wall, is a quixotic and complicated character. He is unbound by simple ethical aims or religious righteousness. He is a hard-hitting yet philosophical man with his own set of morals that are somewhat Dostoevskian … or simply Russian, if you like. These self-made characteristics and responsibilities serve his ultimate goal of virtue in a world lacking even a drop of honor. Thank God for spies. 

The Three Russians, Stewart’s most recent and among his best stories, is in a way set in his own past. After years of European books and stories, he returns to Asheville, North Carolina where he grew to be a man and wrote his first book. The stage is set as Misha meets his friend, Preston in Asheville and tells him of the recent emigration of Russians to Asheville. They are old friends from long ago days in Russia and embark on a journey that begins benignly enough before racing together to stop a terrorist plot much like 9/11. After the CIA recruited Preston to follow his friend Misha to Asheville and uncover the threat to the US, the entire enterprise quickly unfolds. There is no single terrorist or terrorist group but a realization that an entire network of men from different worlds with different capabilities for diverse reasons intends to strike a massive blow at an imperial USA.


And, here we come to the point. The US government and its various agencies, blinded by an eagerness to maintain control over its people, forgoes a deep investigation, and instead creates a simple plot masterminded by a created foreign enemy to strike at the purity of America. Blinded by US exceptionalism, internal politics and inept operatives the government cannot understand that they have created a litany of enemies and have lied to the US public so long that there is no room for the truth. There is only the marketplace of superficialities.. Obviously, this brings up questions of who facilitated 9/11, the Iraq war, Afghanistan and other domestic and foreign terrorist acts as the US government continues to string along this lie—we are under attack from outside states and groups that strike at US purity and way of life..

This lie perpetuates fear and control over the populace which provides an excuse for perpetual war, broken bodies, and endless arms manufacturing. Misha puts it simply. “Washington will never swallow that. They want a specific clear reasonable and identifiable enemy. That is Al-Qaeda…and countries like Iraq.”

Besides being an entertaining and wild ride with spies and dangerous characters, The Three Russians is a morality tale which is an education to the reader. Unfortunately, the lessons from this story are anathema to most of US society. War is peace. Xenophobia is the answer. They are bound so tight into a ball of television produced lies from the government that they simply cannot grasp the obvious truth—the truth that control by an oligarchy is dependent on creating an outside threat.

As Misha leaves behind his own past and the Cold War, he reflects on the current political world climate–“Now they say the global market will fix everything. But I don’t believe it. There are still as many injustices as ever in the world and no alternatives.”

Aug 232016

holy fool=By= Gaither Stewart


Cultures across time have embraced the archetype of the “fool” or “holy fool.” These cultural characters play many roles, but there is an underlying edge to them, for they force a kind of introspection; a sharp edged examination of the issue at hand; through the use of distraction and misdirection they can defuse situations and allow us to laugh at ourselves. Even in religious contexts these “fools” have an edge and oft times they can trick the gods as well as mere humans. Sometimes they are thought to deliver the message of the gods, or run messages between the gods and humans. There are times when even the secular fool is transmuted into a holy fool and back again, but secular or religious, they have protection to fulfill their role.

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Aug 042016
Gaza Series by Zoriah.

Gaza Series by Zoriah.

=By= Gaither Stewart

A response to Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury.

On this hot Italian late afternoon, after over a week inside the literary work entitled Gate of the Sun, I am still wandering in the gossamer framework of the novel constructed by a great writer and storyteller, Elias Khoury, a 531-page “story” consisting of the stories, incidents, histories, lives and deaths narrated by the author’s canvas of countless characters. I am still not certain if I have read a hymn to the courage of the Palestinian people, its men and women, or a dirge to their ceaseless suffering and death. Or, perhaps, the Lebanese author and activist in the Palestinian liberation movement intended his stupendous work of art as both. In any case, I have not even attempted to write here a review of this complex, poetic masterpiece, originally published as Bab al-Shams by Dar-al-Adab, Beirut, 1998 , first published in the USA by Archipelago Books, and finally the edition I read by Picador, 2005, in the translation by Humphrey Davies which seems to me, a non-Arabic reader, magnificent. For me, this novel is emblematic of the glory of fiction. I would challenge anyone to accomplish in non-fiction what Elias Khoury has done here.

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Jul 012016

Reviewed by PAUL GARRETT

Three RussiansThe Three Russians. Punto Press, June 2016. By Gaither Stewart

“The Three Russians” by Gaither Stewart, TGP’s own Senior Editor and European Correspondent, has just been released and is available at Amazon and other outlets.

When confronted with geopolitical foes, the US attempts to dehumanise its opponents and classify them as threats.  The demonising of Vladimir Putin, Russia and revival of the Cold War promoted mostly by the United States seems strangely at odds with the how hard the Russians are trying to collaborate on a number of fronts, Syria, Iran and North Korea.

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Jun 132016

Amulet cover

=By= Gaither Stewart

AMULET  A Political-Fantasy Novel by Roberto Bolaño
As read and admired by political novelist Gaither Stewart

I am reading for the first time the work of Chilean born writer, Roberto Bolaño. His novel, Amulet, set in a phantasmagoric Mexico City that, perhaps, also because it is Latin America’s biggest city, represents the entire crushed and tortured and imprisoned and murdered Latin America while also his characters are emblematic of the suffering and decimation of much of the best of the Latin American youth. Perhaps the author chose to highlight Mexico City, not only because of the massacre of Mexican students there in 1968, but also because he moved there as a teenager and lived there many years before moving to Spain and Barcelona where he died at 50.

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Jun 062016

Chymbulak, Kazakhstan Photo by dr_sweet_al Attribution-NoDerivs License

=By= Gaither Stewart

(Extract from my Iranian diary; a Saturday in June, 1900s) Again, in the early morning, we had driven through the rugged Elburz Mountains from Tehran to the Caspian Sea, then west-northwest up the Caspian coast as far as Ramsar, and then doubled back east along the shore. I, the official interpreter, had wanted to head westwards for Tabriz and Azerbaijan, but the Italian businessmen were most eager to find a good fish restaurant. They entered the first place we saw. The Iranian-Armenian broker and I stood in silence at water’s edge. I was dreaming Caspian … and wondering about the distance to the northwest corner where the Volga River flows into this, the world’s largest enclosed body of water lined in the south by the Elburz and in the west by the great Caucasian mountains just out of our sight but whose presence we felt, range after range, peak after peak, crags and hidden streams. An impregnable fortress. The northern exposure here on the Iranian shores of the Caspian at the small town of Sulaleh is an enlightening geographical experience. We speak in the Armenian’s nearly native Russian as a result of his university studies in Yerevan, Armenia before his emigration to Iran. He points to the west to indicate his present home in Tabriz, Iran. Involuntarily, I mutter the names of cities on the western coast of the Caspian: oil-rich Baku in Azerbaijan (that today the U.S. so wants to get its hands on as it does on Armenia and occupy as it has their southern neighbor Georgia with all is wines and champagne.)I think of the North Caucasian Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s Dagestan, occupied by the British during the Western intervention in the Russian civil war in 1919 before the city was occupied by the new Red Army in 1920.  We speak of the genocide of the Armenians on Mt. Ararat perpetrated by the Turks. I tell him of my private Turkish language teachers, the first a Karachay from the confusing mix of peoples of the North Caucasus on the northen slopes of those great mountains; the second a real Kazakh from Kazakhstan. Both of their native languages are Turkic, transformed and consolidated in university studies in Turkey before their immigration to Germany. The engineer says I would like Tabriz where the street language is Azerbaijani Turkish, nearly Anatolian.  My eyes shift to the eastern shores in search of the country of Turkmenistan before roaming northwards toward Kazakhstan. The huge Caspian Sea does look like a full-fledged sea. Yet only puny waves are rolling in, even though the southern part of the sea is said to reach over one thousand meters depth.  Located between Europe and Asia the Caspian retains waters from the great Volga and Ural Rivers, the latter considered the dividing line between Europe and Asia. Hard to believe that it has no outflows. All its waters converge into surrounding lakes and swamps that nature equilibrates through evaporation. There was no chance to get to Kazakhstan over one thousand kilometers to the north and its flanks spread along the sea’s northeastern shores … but I felt it there. I do not tell the Iranian of my sensation of being very near the top of the world. I felt it was there, north of the Caspian, the top of the world, the center, where time perhaps stands still in which vacuum you perceive lies enormous power. The thing about this location on the Caspian is that you sense the presence of another world up there and that it has a core, the existence of which will one day surprise the world.

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